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Trip to Vienna & Salzburg - should I add Budapest, Prague or Munich?

Hi all:

Planning a trip for my sister's 50th Birthday. She's never been to Europe. I was originally looking at Budapest, Vienna, and Prague by rail, approximately 3.5 days in each location. However, we would both like to spend time in Salzburg and I'd like to take the river cruise in Melk, so that leaves very little time in Vienna proper, and I am starting to re-think the itinerary.

Option 1: Stay 5 days in Vienna / Salzburg, and shorten the time in either Budapest or Prague. But which one should I shorten?
Option 2: Stay 6 days in Vienna / Salzburg, and then one other city. Should it be Budapest or Prague?
Option 3: Vienna 3 -4 days, then Salzburg with a car to explore nearby countryside, perhaps Bavaria or Munich?
Option 4: Stick with the original plan, Budapest, Vienna and Prague by train.

We like history, art, cultural events, sidewalk cafes, beautiful scenery, etc. Coming from California we are pretty enamored of buildings and locations that have historical significance. That said, we don't want to spend our time rushing from one historically significant site or museum to another. Love to be able to wander through both large lively cities and quaint historic towns. Keep in mind that I have been to Europe many times, so offbeat is great for me, but I want to make sure that my sister feels like she has seen at least of a little of the "great sites" in Europe.

Posted by
527 posts

Option #3, but I would make it more time in Vienna. Have an overnight to Salzburg with a full day to explore. Contrary to some opinions you will get, Vienna is worth as much time as you can spend there. Plenty of wonderful cafes and things to do. We have been from 10 days to over a month in Vienna and always find more to come back for. What time of year do you go?
Save Budapest and Prague for another visit. Now let the storm of opinions begin!!! James if you could keep your raves about Hungary to a paragraph it would be a good sign you are not imbibing too much Egri Bikaver. (:-)

Posted by
3 posts

July 2015. Her birthday is the 21st, so would like to be there on that date, but not absolutely necessary.

Posted by
15121 posts

Hey, I try to be balanced. Here are some generalities that will get some criticism but its the way I see it.

Vienna is among the world's great museum cities. I also think that a lot of the activities, sights and the overall quality and atmosphere is more attractive to more mature people than it is to younger people. While in Vienna you will see as many tourists as locals.

Prague is very beautiful and has become a very attractive destination for a younger crowd. It does have some of "culture" that Vienna has but that is eclipsed by what can be found in Vienna. While in Prague you will see more tourists than locals. Most crowded of the three.

Budapest sort of straddles the maturity issue preference by attracting a broader demographic. There are a couple of good museums depending on your interest but the main attraction is outside, the neighborhoods, streets, views, architecture, food, cafes, etc. While in Budapest you will see more locals than tourists. Least crowded of the three.

Your desires in Austria sort of preclude one of the three cities. I would suggest you stick to Vienna and Budapest, if for no other reason, logistics. You will probably not want to see just Budapest by its self in the future so you will probably want to pair it with another location. Vienna is the best fit for that. Prague on the other hand is more centrally located and more easily paired with a number of places in Germany making a great "next trip".

I've been to Vienna a couple of times and for my taste its a good 2 full days. Add a day for the Melk trip and two days for Salzburg and you have 5 days at a minimum. Prague for me is a solid two full day trip at a minimum while Budapest I think needs 3 full days. Not because its better, but its a larger scale experience. Also with Prague I really think you need to stop in Cesky Krumlov (1 day) and maybe spend a day or two seeing some of the magnificent Czech castles. I guess what I am saying is you need more time for PRAGUE/CZECH REPUBLIC to do it right.

Oh and avoid the girly bars........................

Posted by
15121 posts

Technically I only spent one paragraph on Budapest.

July? Be sure you get accommodations with good air conditioning . Gets pretty warm in the summer. The earlier in the summer you can get there the better; for temperatures and for crowds. My favorite time of year is last September or early October. Best weather of the year. Early June is pretty okay too.

ANd while Melk was pretty interesting, the villages of the Wachau Valley were splendid.

Posted by
499 posts

I would stick to Austria. Vienna has plenty of sights and Salzburg is a very nice small city. I did not like Budapest very much so IMHO it does make little sense to cut your days in Vienna to make place for Budapest. So Option 3 (four days in Vienna, three are too little).

Posted by
15365 posts

I'd go with Budapest and Austria. Budapest is fascinating and completely different from Austria.

Posted by
5048 posts

I'd go with option #3; I like the mix of big city, town and village/countryside. For the countryside experience, look into Mittenwald or Seefeld. Lots of attractions within reach.

Posted by
16890 posts

I like the option of trading in one big city for some smaller town stops along the Danube. For the reasons already stated, I agree with saving Prague for another trip, when you might have time to combine it with Cesky Krumlov, Berlin, Dresden, etc.

Posted by
2081 posts


i did these cities in order this past Sept.

Munich > Prague > Vienna > Budapest > Krakow.

i enjoyed all of them and they have more or less what you all want to do/see. some more than others, but i wouldn't have dump any of them for someplace else since every place is unique in its own way. I used trains between all of the cities and enjoyed it. Every time i take a train, it more fun and draws me back for more.

If you all have a draw to Salzburg, then i say go there. On the trip i just did, i had to choose and what i chose suited me and my needs and also travel between was convenient.

good luck and happy trails.

Posted by
15121 posts

@Ray, can you describe your schedule, trains, etc.. Might be helpful.


Posted by
527 posts

How much time did you use
for that route?

Posted by
2081 posts

@ James & ALex,

i hope this answers your questions.

all cities were 3 full days and travel the next 4th day. Exception was Budapest to krakow with overnight train. i left PDX on 3-Sept arrived in AMS 04-Sept and connection flight to Munich same day. Departed Krakow 22-Sept for a couple days in London. Than back to PDX.

Breakdown of what i planned and missed or omitted. Note this is what i did based on what i like or not.

Arrive Munich @ 1055

Deutsches Museum - Main Musuem (Smithsonian)
Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Bavarian Museum)

Dauchu - guided tour
Museum of Antiquities (did not go)
New Town Hall (Neus Rathaus)
Marienplatz (Center plaza or square)

Deutsches-Museum - Flugwerft Schleissheim - Air Musuem (Smithsonian) 20 min train 1 way. (did not go to Air museum)
Residenz - Treasury
Alois Dallmayr Delicatessen (visited but didnt stay to eat)

Nymphenburg Palace - Main Palace
Nymphenburg Palace - Marstallmuseum - Royal Mews (entrance includedd above)
Asams Church (did not go)
Munich City Museum
Obletter Spielwaren - TOY STORE (store closed on this day)

Depart Munich @ 0500 > Arrive Prague @ 1044 @ 19 euros (~27 USD)


Prague Castle (long tour) - Riding School (visited castle, but passed on tour)
St. Vitus Cathedral ( did not go)
Schwarzenberský palác v Praze (did not go)
KGB Museum
Lesser Quarter (Mala Strana) Old Town
Charles Bridge (Karlvu Most) Ped bridge (did not go)

Army/Military Museum
Clementinum (Ntnl Library - Gothic Hall & Tower) (did not go)
Old Town (Stare Mesto)

Old Town Hall and Astronmonical Clock
Old Town Square
Charles University - Gift Shop
Chocolate Museum ( didnt not do museum, but bought a lot of chocolate)
Celetna (shopping Street)
Lucerna Pasaz (upsidedown horse)

Train to/from Prague to Kunta Hora

Kutna Hora

Ossuary & Cathedral)


Schonbrunn Palace
Schonbrunn Palace (Coach Museum)
Neue Berg Palace

Museum of Militrary History
Belvedere (Upper Palace)
St. Peters Church ( did not go)
Historic Center of Vienna

Spanish Riding School -Lipizzans Training ( did not go)
Spanish Riding School - Guided tour
Imperial Treasury
University of Vienna
Rathaus (Vienna City Hall)

Museum of Natural History (did not go)
Hofburg Palace
Naschmarkt (Pedestrian Market Street)
Demel - Chocolate Cake (did not try any)

Depart Vienna @ 0948 > Arrive Budapest @ 1249 @ 19 Euros


Aquincum Museum (Roman Bath)
Aquincum Museum (Roman Bath) - Painters House (missed due to arriving late)

House of Terror - Gestopho Musuem
Holocause Memorial Canter
Hospital In the Rock

Central Market Hall
Maragret Island ( did not go )
Hungarian Nation Museum ( did not go)
Budapest History Museum ( did not go)

Memento Park
Heros Square
Corivinus University of Budapest

Depart Budapest @ 2000 > Arrive Krakow @ 0630 @ 30600 Ft (~136 USD) Overnight single bed -double occupancy room


Gestapho Musuem
National Museum - Main
Museum of Krakow (did not go)

Polish Avaiation Museum ( did not go)
Home Army Museum (VERIFY TIME)
National Museum - Princes Czartoryski Museum ( did not go)

Oscar Schindler Factory
Rynek underground
Museum @ market square

Auschwitz Concentration Camp - Tour & Tour Bus????
Main Market Square ( Rynek Glowny)
Cloth Hall (Old shopping mall)
University of Poland (missed)
EWedel - Chocolate (hit and bought a lot of chocolate and goodies)

note that in Vienna & Budapest i spent several mornings looking for clothes since the laundry in Prague gave my clothes to someone else. Also, some of the things to do/see were swapped in order or days.

happy trails.

Posted by
7676 posts

Yep, Ray hit about all the high points of interest. As you can tell, the larger cities are worthy of a full week's travel.

I prefer to travel to cities that compliment each other, and you cannot go wrong in this part of Europe.


We visited Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Prague in April, and we were pretty pressed for time. You should consider seeing no more than 3 cities--saving the other cities for another visit.

Posted by
13810 posts


Based on your 4 choices I would pick option 2. Choose Budapest as the other city with a day trip to Györ

@ Ray...You missed the Military History/Army Museum in Budapest, well worth going to. I haven't made it to the Prague Army Museum as yet....definitely on to do list in Prague. It would be very interesting to compare and contrast it with that in Budapest.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ Fred,

Thanks for the info on the Military/Army Museum. I dont know how i missed it, but thats why i will go back along with other places.

im not sure you know, but there is an Air Museum in the Czech Republic too. Its suppose to be 1 of the 3 military museums there. I didnt go since it was too far outside of Prague for this trip.

Happy trails.

Posted by
13810 posts

@ Ray....Yes, that Military History/Army Museum in BP has signs pointing to its whereabouts (in English) when you are near it on Gellert Hill. Regardless of reviews you may read of the museum, esp those presenting the Museum in a negative light, (I don't pay any attention to those Trip Adviser reviews anyway), you'll see the value of it, esp the floor exhibiting the Austro-Hungarian (K&K) monarchy. There is primary source evidence displayed in Hungarian and German on the oncoming of WW 1 (the July crisis of 1914) which I've never seen in any other history museum, not even in England, which can be counted as among the best. Bottom'll find it fascinating.

Posted by
15121 posts

I'm not going to try and match Fred's military museum knowledge. I will suggest you visit Gyor on the way to Budapest from Vienna. Same train line and that way you don't have to backtrack.

Fred, if you want to own a piece of history I own an Eastern European Cold War fallout shelter that you might be able to induce me to sell. Before Phil aka George starts freaking out and screaming Commercialization, lets think about how absurd the proposal is ........... (probably).

Posted by
13810 posts

@ James...I saw those fall out shelter signs in SF in the 1950s. Totally agree with going to Györ as a day trip from Vienna if one is going to Hungary in the first place.

Posted by
15121 posts


If you visit the Hospital in the Rock you will note that at the entry (they use it as the exit on the tours) are two steel doors with a vestibule in-between. The vestibule was where in theory you washed off the radioactive dust before entering the facility. Sort of like the old duck and cover, it made you feel good but beyond that .................???? The pictures linked below you will see identical doors with the same wash down vestibule. Except this one is in the basement an apartment building. We inherited it when we purchased our home. Someday maybe we will find a use for it.